We used Killarney as our “jumping off place” for the next two nights. I was glad for a short reprieve to the daily directive of “Bags out at 7!” but breakfast and departure times stayed relatively the same.
Our first morning, we were treated to a “jaunting car” ride through the Killarney National Park (no cars allowed). A jaunting car is a horse-drawn carriage, and ours held eight passengers. The driver, called a jarvey, keeps the patter going constantly, talking about the flora, fauna, and history of the place. He’s also quite the comedian, or so he thinks, and I heard interesting catch-phrases and jokes, most of which I have thankfully forgotten.
A sample of the jarvey’s patter: “He’s as free of brains as a mud turtle is of feathers.” And “I got a fine last week for running over a La-Pree-Shun in a National Park.” (Leprechaun).
The Ring of Kerry (actually the Ivernagh Peninsula) is one of the many peninsulas that extend from the southern tip of Ireland, like toes on a foot. Each is close to 50 miles long, so the driving loops are about 100 miles. On Kerry, the motor coach drivers have agreed to drive in a counter-clockwise direction, and on the Dingle Peninsula, they travel clockwise. If you saw the width of the roads, you’d understand why this is important!
The scenery is spectacular, although the curvy road reminds me of the Road to Hana on Maui, and is almost as nausea-inducing! In Waterville, we saw a statue of Charlie Chaplin. He reportedly liked to catch fish there, and gave them to the chef to prepare for dinner.
We had lunch overlooking a spectacular view, with “Michael Skellig” in the distant background. Skellig means rock, or island… Michael Skellig is where the final scene from the last Star Wars movie was filmed… You know, where the camera panned around and around the jagged cliffs, then zeroed in on the hooded man standing in the wind… then he turned and we are treated to one short clip of Luke Skywalker (who will undoubtedly be in the next movie!)
And YES! I bought the t-shirt!
Charles De Gaulle liked to fish in Sneem. It’s a colorful town (many of them are) and obviously caters to the tourist trade as their main source of income.
This stop reminded me a little of the amazing Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, but without all the flowers, and with the addition of a medieval castle.
I know that sounds silly, but imagine groomed walkways meandering through trees “dressed” in colorful knitted and crocheted “trunk wraps.” Seriously! I thought maybe it was to keep the infamous red stags from stripping the bark of the young trees as they scraped the velvet off their antlers, but I found out that the “tree scarves” are actually a part of the Cork Textiles network recent art installation. (Apparently, “yarn bombing” is a world-wide phenomena… Google it!)
This “garden,” like Butchart, is really a series of unique areas and hidden visual treasures, a true oasis for weary tourists. Unfortunately, it’s so spread out, the hike from ticket booth to castle necessitated several rest stops. Fortunately, there are plenty of gracefully curved cement benches to sit on!
The base of the castle itself has many cubbyholes and caverns that beckon the explorer. And on the final climb to the tower, a young Irish woman, dressed in green velvet, played the familiar tunes of “Danny Boy” and “Molly Malone” on a violin. I encouraged her to play the theme from Star Wars, as that garners good tips for the grandson of a friend of mine at Saturday markets. She good naturedly had me hum a few bars, then played a little of it, causing many laughs from the tourists and an influx of coins to her open violin case.
Once I made the “final” climb to the castle, I knew there were 127 stone steps, spiraling upward inside the tower. If you wanted to “Kiss the Stone of Eloquence,” this was your chance. I watched as my fellow travelers were bent over backwards (literally) so they could press their lips to the slimy stone that was “washed off” when the young man “assisting” the contortion of the tourists threw a bucket of water at it.
Thanks but no thanks. Even though I don’t have the “photo and certificate” to prove it, I’m pretty sure everyone who knows me would concur that I ALREADY have the gift of gab, thank you very much!
NOTE: My photos do not do this lovely place justice. Here’s a link for more info: http://www.blarneycastle.ie/
We drove through miles of green rolling hills and pasture land along the southwest coast from Waterford to Cobh, a delightful little port town with a natural big deep harbor. From 1848 to 1950, six million Irish emigrated to other parts of the world. Two and a half million of them departed through Cobh.
Now, I bet you think Queenstown was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic, right? (Yep, this is a trick question.)
From 1850 until the late 1920s, this seaport located on the south coast of County Cork DID go by the name Queenstown, named to commemorate a visit from Queen Victoria, but today it’s known as Cobh (pronounced like “Cove” as it is a Gaelic, which has pronunciations that make absolutely no sense to me). Located on the south side of Great Island, it is the home of Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal.
When the RMS Titanic sailed away in 1912, the last thing anyone saw of Ireland was the spire of the cathedral above the town—the same as for all ships leaving decades before and after.
When Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892, the first passenger processed through the immigration station was a 15-year-old Irish girl named Annie Moore. There is a statue of her and her two brothers near the historical center in Cobh.
At the historical center, there’s a funky little museum, a café, and a few gift shops with surprisingly reasonable prices. Even Waterford Crystal is for sale here, and at deeper discounts than at the factory!
Believe it or not, there is more to Waterford than crystal.
Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland, originally settled by the Vikings. They showed up in the 9th century, and established a valuable seaport in Southeast Ireland. Before that, the Irish in this area were predominantly nomads and shepherds and had no permanent housing.
The Anglo-Normans invaded in the 12th century. In 1171, English King Henry II showed up to make sure the people there would follow his lead. Prince John (later King John) showed up in 1205 and gave the city its first charter, setting up the city government.
I can’t quite remember the story of Strongbow, and how he showed up and laid claim to things that were not there to be “claimed,” but my stomach was growling and I wasn’t too focused on what our guide was saying, although I was very impressed by the fact that he’s been on the History Channel numerous times.
We’d had only a half hour’s rest before setting off on “The Viking Mile,” a walking tour of the area right around our hotel in the waterfront. (We stayed at The Tower, if you want to google it.)
Fortunately, we didn’t have to walk a whole mile before settling in at the Munster Bar, named after King Munster, for tonight’s special dinner. But we did have to pay tribute to Holly and Glenn, representing Strongbow and his wife, before we got to go eat!
The name “Waterford” is virtually synonymous with “Crystal.” We had a very beautiful and informative tour, and I took lots of interesting photos of the whole process.
Starting out in one of the display rooms, we saw a 5-foot tall goblet (I’ll just have ONE MORE drink!), and a Grandfather Clock, completely handmade, and true works of art. Then we saw a short video about the factory, and went in to see how the process is completed, starting with the wooden molds.
It was hot in the first room factory, the oven fires blazing as the men inserted poles of solid glass to heat before spinning or blowing into a specific shape.
The etching room is mathematical in precision, the lines drawn on only for the novices, who train for two years and must pass rigorous skill tests on their assigned pieces. The lines are gone then, and must be etched from memory. Each craftsman is trained only in a few styles.
There are bins of blades for etching, and yes, there’s also a bin for “mistakes,” which will be melted down and the design begun anew. I did not ask if the craftsmen were docked, or penalized for boo-boos, or how many they were allowed before told to go looking for other employment.
Although I shouldn’t have been “surprised,” it had never occurred to me that the finished crystal bowl weighs significantly less than before it’s been cut into. I head-slapped myself for not knowing that!
Our guide, a stereotypical red-headed Irish lad, started to hand a goblet to me and pretended to slip and almost drop it. Gave me a horrible scare! I’m sure I squeaked when he did that. How embarrassing, and he apologized a half dozen times for giving me “quite the fright.”